I, like many women of reproductive age, used to take oral contraceptives as a form of birth control, and also with the hopes of “regulating my cycle.” I desired very strongly to have a steady, consistent, predictable cycle. Often, I would even wish that I did not have to deal with the turmoil that woman’s cycle brings: the highs and lows, the passions and apathies, the seemingly conflicting emotions that felt very difficult to keep up with, manage, and express properly.
This began to shift in my late-teenage to early-adulthood years. At this time, a sneaking suspicion gripped me that there was something wrong about pumping my body full of hormones daily — hormones that my body did not and would not produce on its own in those quantities at those times. While many aspects of modern medicine are truly magnificent, what we know as “oral contraceptives” cannot mimic Nature and what is intended for a woman’s body. There is something that I do not trust about consuming chemicals long-term and I believe deep within my blood and bones that my body should and could know exactly what to do without the assistance or the interference of unnatural external forces. Introducing these chemicals to “regulate” or “treat” an imbalance, I believe, over time, will only create more imbalance within the body.
In my desperation for a predictable cycle, I have come to realize that — to a certain extent — predictability is the antithesis of the feminine. The feminine is about fluctuation, which is often quite unpredictable. These fluctuations offer a graceful fluidity to womanhood that is perfectly beautiful. We expect a “cycle” to deliver a pattern and have a rhythm, but to demand Nature to be steady and consistent is a mistake. A woman’s cycle is like water, ebbing and flowing, and while there is a certain rhythm about the movement of water, there are many nuances and subtleties that cannot and ought not to be tracked and charted in a linear way. The feminine is not linear; it is fluid. In my pleas for a “predictable cycle,” I recognize now that what I yearned for was, and is, a healthy cycle. An integral part of healthy cycle is to honor and trust that your body knows what it is doing (and the resistance to this cycle has the capacity to contribute to the unhealthy cycle that so many of us may experience). To promote that trust in the body, consider that there are many healthy cycles that exist in the body, such as those of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, just as there are many functional cycles that exist within our world and our solar system, as seen in the tides and the planetary orbits. Nature as we know it is made of many healthy cycles and functional patterns that are to be honored and revered, rather than feared or doubted.
In retrospect, I feel some grief for the teenage version of myself who wished to abort her cycle at times, so as not to deal with with the struggle, the work, and the embarrassment of each month’s bleeding. It is a shame that our society does not seem populated with enough older women educating younger women about woman’s cycle. This cycle is not something to fight with; the work and the embarrassment need not exist if we embrace what is happening and allow ourselves to take rest and be renewed, as we prepare for our next lunar phase. There ought to be a profound appreciation and even a wonderment for woman’s cycle. It is a sacred privilege. It endows woman with the opportunity to be renewed and generate a new version of herself as well as the power to create another life. I urge our culture, collectively (women especially), to discover a reverence for this holy cycle that occurs for women all around the globe and plays such an enormous role in sustaining us as human beings.
Becoming more acquainted with woman’s cycle promotes a stronger, more intimate relationship with the self as well as a community of women and the opportunity for fertility-awareness as a means of birth control.
To support these ideals, women might consider employing modern versions of ancient approaches to monthly cycle. Traditionally, women developed methods for capturing menstrual flow in something natural, sustainable, and/or reusable, rather than absorbing it in something disposable. Women may have sat on reeds or equipped themselves with cloth napkins to allow blood to flow onto and into. Today, there are options such as the DivaCup or Moon Cup and New Moon Pads to catch menstrual flow, which can be washed and reused. There are countless benefits to exploring these methods, including but not limited to: menstrual and vaginal health; the environmental sustainability of not contributing to the 10,000-15,000 disposable menstrual products the average woman uses in her lifetime; saved expenses of no longer purchasing disposable menstrual products; convenience of having these at the home all the time; and a clearer understanding of the monthly cycle by knowledge of how much menstrual blood is shed each month (in the case of using the DivaCup or similar product). I believe that these methods have the potential to fortify the relationship between woman and her body, and promote a healthy cycle. It is true that in order to use the less conventional methods, we must already be comfortable with our bodies to a certain degree. Comfort with our bodies can be in direct relationship with how much and what we are willing to expose ourselves to. Comfort requires an exploration, a study of ourselves, and an effort to familiarize ourselves with the processes and patterns of our bodies and of Nature. The more we question, the more familiar we can become; the more familiar we can become, the more the comfort and the trust grows. Comfort also requires faith in our Nature (as women and as human beings) and knowledge that there is a reason and a function for what we experience (that the human body is no accident or mistake).
I know, all too well, the difficulty and discomfort of menstruation, and know many women — young and old — who would rather not be “bothered” by the whole ordeal, and seem to live with the illusion that they would prefer to forget they are menstruating or even that they might be happier or better off without experiencing it altogether. A large part of this denial of our womanhood is cultural. In this society, many of us females were never told that we may rest during the menstrual phase. Many of our institutions do not seem to have reverence for woman’s cycle and allow or tolerate the idea of staying home and spending more time horizontal during our menstrual cycle. It is a mistake that our schools and jobs do not accommodate this natural cycle, but it does not mean that, as women, we cannot allow ourselves the time and space critical for healthy rest and rejuvenation as our bodies prepare to move from one cycle into the next.
If we do not see, feel, and sense the process of menstruation while in that phase of the cycle, we rob ourselves of an intimacy and connection that is crucial to a healthy cycle; the precious experience of a beginning and an end to a cycle; a purging that is necessary for renewal; a death and a re-birth.
There is a very basic truth I have come to that has been indispensable to me: this is a time of great potential. Anything of great potential and possibility has the capacity to be unpredictable, uncomfortable, chaotic, frightening, overwhelming, and countless other alarming and disarming qualities. What we ought to change our language about is the limited belief that this is a negative time. How are we to expect the body to respond if we are telling women, men, and ourselves that it is a drag, an inconvenience, a mess, a horror, an embarrassment? We could all benefit from a more developed perspective on the matter, one in which we are reminded and are reminding others that this is a natural, healthy process and that woman’s body knows what to do.
Fabulous article and a topic that I believe is one that, as you mentioned, is not viewed in the way you describe. Being one who believes in the mysteries and purposefulness of nature as being reasonable and inherently significant in our bodies, I am inspired by your discussion. Thank you Jackie for your insight!
love you, Debbie
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